Abigail/1702

Abbey Siegworth (right) and Don Richard appear in a scene from the Nebraska Repertory Theatre production of "Abigail/1702."

John Ficenec, Nebraska Repertory Theatre

Nebraska Repertory Theatre has kicked off its 49th year with a production of “Abigail/1702,” and it is a corker.

Playing out of the Johnny Carson Theater at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, the Rep now defines itself as a professional regional theater and offers students in the instructional program of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film a chance to work with theater professionals year-round.

So it is that professional actress Abbey Siegworth leads the cast as Abigail Williams and professional actor Don Richard plays several key roles, including a smarmy Devil. Lincoln’s Virginia Smith rounds out the professional lineup of actors who build a strong framework for the storyline.

The concept of the play is that it extends the story begun in Arthur Miller’s American classic “The Crucible,” imaging what might have happened to Abigail Williams, the witchcraft accuser, 10 years after the end of Miller’s play, in 1702. The idea is a fascinating one and, before the play ends, the audience is led to consider the great issues of the nature of good and evil, damnation and redemption.

A group of 14 performers, including UNL undergraduates, graduate students and some graduates, comprise the rest of the company and what a company it is. Each seems to be a fine individual vocal performer and together they form an a capella chorale that provides all the music for the production.

The technical aspects of the show are excellent, starting with a four-tiered circular stage of which two tiers revolve, constructed in the black box of the Johnny Carson theater. The stage serves the play well and adds motion and visual interest to the dialogue-heavy piece.

Director Andy Park, in his Lincoln debut, makes full use of the house, sending his cast into the audience and up the aisles, again adding life and movement to the piece.

Altogether, the production works and provides an interesting night at the theater. The new Rep is off and running in a good direction.

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